Greenpeace activists speak in Sydney
Friday February 10th 2006, 10:37 am

Greenpeace activists are still warming their frozen toes after 73 days of chasing the Institute for Cetacean Research whale hunters around the Southern Ocean. Greenpeace anti-whaling Expedition Leader Shane Rattenbury spoke on 8 February 2006 along with activists Mikey and Lally at Sydney’s National Maritime Museum, about the recent Greenpeace efforts to interfere with killing of more than a thousand whales in the course of supposed research.

Steve Shallhorn of Greenpeace Australia Pacific (click for larger size)
Steve Shallhorn, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific
introduces Antarctic Expedition Team leader
Shane Rattenbury and Campaigner Mikey (far right)


Downward envy part II
Wednesday February 08th 2006, 11:50 pm

Went out to hear some Greenpeace activists who were on the recent Antarctic anti-whaling campaign speak at the National Maritime Museum this evening. Fascinating. Incredibly tough, dedicated people. More about them later.

yeah, baby! (click for full size)Decided to pop in to Newtown for a bite to eat on the way home. As usual, finding disabled access parking in Newtown was difficult, but it was made only worse by able-bodied wankers who decided that their convenience was worth more than the discomfort or difficulty disabled people encounter when doing something so simple as going out for a meal. 

Bad idea.

Disabled access spaces are not 5 minute parking for able-bodied people just because the space is not presently occupied with a disabled person’s car. Being lazy is not a disability. Running late is not a disability.

If you can walk the extra 20 paces it would take to use a legal parking space instead of illegally using a disabled access space… you’re blessed! People with disabilities need these spaces- they are not some grand perk afforded to just any old slob who merely claims they have a bad back.

The Parking Rangers were on top of it. This inconsiderate jerk copped a $375 attitude adjustment fee.

And I smiled all the way home. 🙂 

la la la la la 


This magic moment
Monday February 06th 2006, 6:01 pm

holeeeeeee cowTim Blair and I are of the same mind at the moment about the editorial cartoons in Jyllands-Posten critical of Islam, though not perhaps for the same reasons.

I’m here because freedom of expression- a human right- trumps religious dogma every day of the week, not because I think Islam is a general and implacable enemy of the western world. Blair was a bit too heavy on the us-v-them-yay-go-team aspect for me.


Sacred cows make the best hamburger
Sunday February 05th 2006, 9:41 am

 image: Jyllands Posten

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September 2005 published editorial cartoons critical of Islamic prophet Mohammed and equivocating violence and oppression of women with Islam, angering Muslims. The response of the aggrieved parties was to threaten bomb attacks on the newspaper’s Danish offices. On 4 February 2006, rioters in Syria set fire to Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus, with no apparent interference from Syrian authorities.

On the face of it, the cartoonists’ points appear to have been validated. The western world does not accept management of free expression by violence. Regardless, Jyllands-Posten has issued an apology to those who may have been offended by the cartoons, but stands by the position that it advocates freedoms of speech- and religion.

The short and sweet of it is that freedom of expression trumps politically or religiously motivated violent intimidation in all cases. If Muslims were offended, letters to the editors of Jyllands-Posten rebutting the expressions in the cartoons were appropriate. While it may not have been appropriate to characterise all Muslims as bombers, violence based in Islamic dogma is well known. It should be well known that not all Muslims are mad bombers; if this isn’t clear, then there’s not enough moderate Muslims putting their views in print.

One of the primary strengths of true secular democracies is that a valiant attempt is made to accommodate freedom of expression- and religion- by all their citizens. No person’s cow is more sacred than any other. Rights are not merely assertations of what sort of acts one may inflict upon others; they are also the defined limits upon one’s actions. Your right to scream ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre ends when that expression needlessly harms others. Your right to raise your fist stops when it hits my face.

image: Jyllands-PostenHowever, the use of western mass communications to freely propagate inaccurate, narrow stereotypes is an abuse of the Fourth Estate- and deserves an equal limitation. This has been a valid criticism as long as there has been mass media. Deregulation of media ownership results in fewer people being in editorial control of publishers and broadcasters, limiting the breadth of opinions they transmit.

When one is offended by the free expressions of others, the only acceptable retort in a society which can ultimately survive and grow is more free speech. If wholesale characterisation of Muslims as bombers is inaccurate, Muslims should make comment which corrects the public record. Bombing and burning representatives of the offence is not a correction- it’s a reinforcement of the idea.


UPDATE: See also this opinon piece by Charles Moore. Bit more cynical than me, but makes some good points.  

Iemma to introduce hydroponic cannabis legislation based in wives’ tales
Saturday February 04th 2006, 9:06 am

image: Premier Morrris Iemma is set to introduce legislation to the NSW Parliament increasing penalties for growing cannabis with hydroponic means. Iemma has been sucked in by the fear campaign run by anti-cannabis campaigners over the supposed "7 times greater stength" of cannabis grown by hydroponic methods. The greater strength of ‘modern’ cannabis is quoted by anti-drug pressure groups as anywhere between a few times to up to 50 times (or more) the strength of cannabis grown in the 1960s.

Hydroponics is a means of delivering fertiliser to the roots of a plant in a liquid form, while the plant’s roots attach themselves to an inert material (such as gravel or lava rock) to hold the plant upright, instead of growing the plant in conventional soil. The plant simply gets its food from a liquid nutrient solution instead of extracting it from organic fertilisers contained in soil.

The characteristics of any plant- flavour, colour, size, shape, and in the case of cannabis, the psychoactive ingredient content- are determined by its particular DNA structure. Hydroponic growing does not alter the DNA of a plant any more than feeding a person intravenously will change that person’s eye colour.

Tomatoes and lettuce are also commonly commercially grown with hydroponic techniques.  Tomatoes are no more tomato-y nor is lettuce any crisper when grown with hydroponics. In the same context, cannabis is no stronger simply because it has been grown with hydroponic techniques. Strangely, ‘hothouse’ or hydroponically grown tomatoes and lettuce are not similarly in the sights of legislators.

The "Not Your Father’s Marijuana" myth is repeated constantly by anti-drug campaigners- but not because it is the truth. Such misinformation merely suits the goals of the pressure groups. Cannabis has not suddenly become dangerous in the last few years. Anti-cannabis pressure groups are simply now getting the ears of politicians with the ‘hydroponics!!‘ buzzword.

The justification proffered by anti-drugs campaigners that ‘modern’ cannabis is ‘X’ times stronger than that smoked by hippies in the 1960s & 70s is based in data collected by the US DEA from seized cannabis. The DEA did in fact record an upward change in the content of the psychoactive component in cannabis, but it wasn’t because of any miraculous discoveries in hybridising, genetic engineering or cultivation methods.

Most of the psychoactive delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) component in cannabis is contained in the flowers or ‘buds’ with next to none contained in the leaves, stems and seeds of the plant. Dried cannabis seized by the DEA in the 1960s and 70s contained not just the flowers but also the largely inert leaves, stems and seeds. Cannabis users through the 1980s expressed a preference to buy only the buds, so growers began to discard the inert material. When DEA seized cannabis in the 1980s and forward, the amount of THC measured by weight appeared to increase when compared to earlier seizures which included the inert materials. If the statistics are corrected to reflect the omission of inert material, cannabis from the 1960s is virtually identical to ‘modern’ cannabis. The DEA did not discover any new ‘super cannabis,’ but rather tracked a user preference trend.

Premier Iemma should get on the phone to people who have real scientific knowledge about cannabis, like Dr Alex Wodak of Sydney’s St. Vincent’s Hospital Drug and Alcohol treatment unit, instead of listening to fearmongering pressure groups. However, hard scientific data about cannabis is hard to come by because governments often refuse to fund proper research.

Let’s base our drug laws in replicatable scientific facts rather than in scare campaigns.